A redeeming weekend for baseball team

It may not feel like it for anyone who was forced to venture outside this morning or last, but it is baseball season.

In fact, it has been for two weeks. The Minnesota baseball team just wrapped up its second weekend of play – one that was drastically different from the weekend prior.

Gophers baseball fans were likely a little apprehensive after Minnesota’s opening weekend at No. 4 Ole Miss – and rightly so.

Minnesota gave up 45 runs in the three-game series, the highlight of which was a 22-5 drubbing from the Rebels on Saturday.

And if Minnesota’s pitching staff wasn’t in enough trouble giving up 38 earned runs, the Gophers threw a little salt in the wound with 10 errors in the series.

Now obviously, I didn’t expect anything incredible during the opening weekend on the road against a team that I could see winning a College World Series title this year in Omaha, but I certainly didn’t foresee those kinds of statistics.

But, for anyone anticipating a possible post-season berth for the Gophers, a little hope was restored a week later.

If you decided to head out to the Metrodome over the weekend, not only did you get yourself a coupon for a free MooLatte, but you had the opportunity to watch some good baseball.

Two of the three visiting teams who played in the Dairy Queen Classic this weekend entered the tournament nationally ranked – both fell to Minnesota.

The Gophers gave No. 18 Tulane a 7-5 beating before besting No. 29 Pepperdine 5-2 on Sunday.

But even more significant than the two wins was a complete statistic reversal from the prior weekend.

The Gophers’ pitching staff had a solid turnaround as they left their 12.67 opening weekend earned run average in University, Miss. and sported one-third of that number with a 4.67 ERA for the weekend.

Even more importantly, the Gophers got a solid performance out of veteran starter Dustin Brabender. Minnesota will need some first-rate outings from the senior this season and his start against Ole Miss was anything but.

Brabender gave up six earned runs in just two and two-thirds innings work while walking five and surrendering six hits.

Fast forward a week to his showing against Pepperdine on Sunday, where Brabender allowed just two runs and four hits in four and one-third innings of work.

And helping out Brabender and the Gophers pitching staff was a much improved defense.

After a 10-error performance against the Rebels, Minnesota cut that number to just two at the Dome, a much-needed improvement.

All in all, it’s simply too early to pass judgment on exactly what kind of team coach John Anderson has this season and especially too early to count them out of an at-large bid for a regional.

Certainly Minnesota’s defense and pitching staff are things to keep an eye on, especially after the rocky, inconsistent start. Regardless though, it undoubtedly will be interesting to see how this team evolves as the season moves along.